May 6, 2022 - Technology

Treasury sanctions cryptocurrency tool tied to North Korean hackers

The U.S. Treasury Department building in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Treasury Department building. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Treasury said Friday it sanctioned an online cryptocurrency tool that was tied to a North Korean hacking group and used to steal and launder virtual currencies.

Why it matters: This is the first time the treasury department has issued sanctions against a cryptocurrency mixer, which can be used for illicit activity.

Driving the news: A North Korean cyber unit called the Lazarus Group stole $620 million back in March and used the cryptocurrency tool Blender to launder more than $20 million of those stolen funds, the Treasury Department said.

  • The Treasury Department has now sanctioned Blender, or, which is considered a "mixer" software.
  • Mixer software will mix transactions "together before transmitting them to their ultimate destinations," the department said.
  • These tools are "designed to anonymize the source of virtual currency by exchanging it for an equal amount of randomized currencies," per The Hill.

What they're saying: “Today, for the first time ever, Treasury is sanctioning a virtual currency mixer,” said Brian Nelson, the undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, in a statement.

  • “Virtual currency mixers that assist illicit transactions pose a threat to U.S. national security interests.
  • "We are taking action against illicit financial activity by the DPRK and will not allow state-sponsored thievery and its money-laundering enablers to go unanswered."

The big picture: North Korea has been laundering more stolen cryptocurrency in recent weeks by using mixers, cybersecurity firm Chainalysis said, per Reuters.

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